Sunday, March 9, 2008

Prayer, Praise, and Pain

You know, I really don’t like personal blogs. They can tend to be narcissistic which makes me uncomfortable. But at the risk of a little narcissism, I really need to share with you some lessons I am learning as a result of recent events. I apologize if this is a bit lengthy. First let me summarize these last few days:

· Thursday, 3/6/08 – Unexpectedly, I developed a rather severe “toothache”-like pain radiating down my left arm with tingling in the middle three fingers of my left hand. A previous MRI of the cervical spine revealed the likely cause to be arthritic changes at C 6-7 resulting in nerve impingement at that level. I started home cervical traction which only brought temporary relief. That night I experienced the worst and most sustained flare up of generalized throbbing pain throughout my spine, shoulders, pelvis and hips, which reached a crescendo with each heart beat, and was forced to take extra narcotic pain medication. Combined with the pleurisy-like pain on my right side, I told Linda the only thing I need to do to avoid pain is not move, stop breathing and/or stop my beating heart!

· Friday – As a result of the higher dose of narcotics, I was nauseated all day, could not eat or drink more than sips of fluids, and had extreme weakness and fatigue. The nagging left arm pain persisted until, after an earnest prayer, it suddenly and completely disappeared! That night saw a return of the fever, but not the severe skeletal pain.

· Saturday – I cautiously increased my oral intake, vomiting just once, stopped the strong narcotic pain medication and relied mainly on Tylenol and Darvocet. I enjoyed one of the most restful, pain-free nights in recent days and now have an improved appetite with renewed strength.

Through this entire ordeal, I have been struggling to learn what greater purpose(s) the Lord may have in mind. He then reminded me of a passage I recently taught in our adult Bible study class from John 5 when Jesus asks the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda: “Do you wish to get well?” At first glance it seems like an odd question, but implied in His question is the likelihood that the man had learned the benefits of the life of a victim, and feared the consequences to him personally should he be suddenly and miraculously restored. I began to recognize some subtle traits in my own thinking… to experience complete healing from this aggressive and advanced cancer would require an abandoned faith and utter surrender to whatever He had in store for me and my family thereafter. Am I really prepared for that?

Then I struggled with why He would allow the additional aggravation of the left arm pain, unrelated to the cancer, to flare up just now. So I prayed, this time with the kind of faith that says, “I know you are able to heal and that You desire what is best for me. I thank you for the pain but trust you now to stop the pain and remove it at its source. Praise you, Lord, for your lovingkindness.” After praying this prayer, I fell asleep and awoke from my nap with absolutely no pain in my arm! Nor has it returned.

So now He asks, “Why not trust Me in the same way for complete healing of your cancer? Is anything too difficult for Me?” My answer is “Lord, my faith is in You and in Your lovingkindness, almighty power, mercy and grace. While I am ready to go home, if that is Your desire, I am also ready to stay, prepared to live the rest of my days in complete and total surrender to whatever You have in store for me and my family. Lord I ask for complete healing from this cancer and praise you for whatever path you choose to accomplish Your will. Blessed be Your Name!” Do I wish to get well? "Yes, Lord, yes, Lord, yes, yes, Lord!"

One further lesson learned in these last few days. During the height of the severe generalized bone pain, I learned the power of praise. There is a story in the Old Testament (2Chronicles 20) of king Jehoshaphat seeking God’s help when facing an enemy of overwhelming strength and numbers. God told him “The battle is not yours but God’s.” The battle was won that day as Jehoshaphat sent the choir out in front of the army singing: “Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting!”

So while lying in bed in excruciating pain, I started singing: “I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice, to worship You. Oh my soul, rejoice. Take joy, my King, in what you hear. May it be a sweet, sweet sound, in Your ear.” At the sound of my crooning, my wife wisely offered to bring me the portable CD player with headphones :-) I spent the next hour worshipping Him to the sounds of Celtic Praise. The pain did not stop, but the associated muscle tension eased and I was at peace, knowing His palpable presence.

We now are preparing to return to Charlottesville for what we hope to be definitive treatment for the melanoma. My desire is that He will be glorified in what He is about to accomplish and that you too will know the power of prayer and praise to our loving God in the midst of your pain.

In His hands,


  1. Dr. Crabtree,

    The kids and I pray for you everyday. I have been in awe listening to their words and prayers of love and innocence. I guess I'm starting to understand what it means to love and have faith like a child. I am humbled by the innocence of their faith and yet that innocence speaks such amazing truth. The kids have all said in their own times that Dr. Crabtree is a good doctor and a very nice man and God will take good care of him because he loves us. They tell me the God is everywhere and can do anything He wants and they know that God is looking out for Dr. Crabtree. I want to thank you for your inviting us into your world and thoughts. His work is certainly glorified through your openly sharing your journey with us. I praise the Lord for giving you this opportunity to surrender to Him and have this level of intimacy in your relationship with Him especially at this time. I pray that He will give you remission from this pain and an end to this cancer - for that would truly be a miraculous gift that would be one of the biggest moments of rejoicing seen here in Norfolk! You have an army of prayer warriors intent on seeing that His will be done and that this journey bring you to complete the plan that He has in store for you! We pray that your family continue to be comforted and peaceful throughout this journey and fulfilled in the knowledge that it is the Lord's will to have all of us trust in His ultimate purpose so that He may be glorified. We are all praying for you here.

    With great love -
    Jenn, John, Katy, Jacob, Isaac and Lindsey, who still is waiting for you! :)

  2. Dr. C., Ater I read of your conceern about the blog possibly sounding "narcissistic' I wanted to write and reinforce what so many have told you. That is, the spiritual lessons so many of us are learning as we are making this journey with you, and how very much we appreciate you giving of the time and strength you have to still be giving and sharing. Sometimes we are reminded to compare our suffering to that of Jesus, and for some of us that is a stretch. But, as I read of your pain this week I was very much able to relate my pain from Fibromyagia (which comes and goes) to the severe pain you have suffered, and as I did I was able to put my situation in perspective as being very minor in comparison. By the same thought process I was then able to relate to Christ. What you are sharing is such a lesson in total submission to God and His will. Some lessons come with a very high cost...this is one of them. We pray daily for your comfort, freedom from pain, healing and restoration. We are look forward to hearing where you are on this journey. Our prayers will intensify this next week while you are at UVA. Please know you are surrounded by a great host of people bombarding heaven on your behalf, and may you feel His close presence surrounding you. Oh, the chorus you were "crooning" is one that I often sing in praise.

  3. Hey Dr. C,

    Phil Rivera here (son number 6 of Mary Rivera's clan), just writing to wish you the best during this ordeal. It's the very least I can do considering everything you've done for my Mom over the years. She's been keeping the whole family updated on you. Needless to say, the entire gang sends nothing but their love. You are in our prayers and always will be. Mom, who will be buying her first computer in the next few weeks so she can stay better in the loop on your progress (Mary Rivera embracing technology? See what you've done Dr. C? ;-) made me promise to write to your blog. She prays for you everyday and can't wait to see you back in the she can bug you some more. Get well Dr. C. Otherwise my brothers and I will come down there and beat up your doctor for not doing his job Hahaha. Take care. We'll be in touch.


    Mary Rivera and the entire Rivera clan (courtesy of son #5)

  4. My Dearest Brother Dan.

    Never, never think your blog is narcissistic, uncomfortable to others, embarrassing (your Valentine's poem to Linda) or anything of the sort. You send a strong message to every person who reads your entries each time you write an update. Lives are being saved, people are coming to know the Lord again and learning how to trust in the Lord. People all over are realizing just how precious life is and how short life can be and that each and every day should be spent as though it were the last. Your trust in the Lord and the spiritual messages you send to others is overwhelming to say the least. YOU touch more lives every single day.

    We are all praying that the Lord will give you rest from this pain you are suffering. We shall also remember the suffering Christ paid that we may have eternal life.

    Stay strong brother Dan and know that we all love and admire you more than words could ever express. Thank you for bringing not only myself but many, many more people closer to God through your messages.

    All my love forever,
    Your lil' sister, Debbie

  5. Dear Dan,
    I totally agree with Debbie. You are our strength in bringing me and others closer to God. You are, in the true sense of the word, my strength. I will be going thru an EGD and a Colonoscopy by no means life threatening or in anyway painful, but you also know what it can do to a fibro patient. It can contribute more pain and that is one thing I am afraid of, but no more, thinking of all the pain and more you are going thru. I feel blessed with being in pain day in and day out 24/7, compared to what you are going thru. If you can do it so can I. :)
    Love you Dan. I have spread the word and have people all over the country in prayer for you, your health and your family.

  6. Dear Dr. Crabtree,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Praise God for sending you to be part of our lives and for using you to teach us all a great lesson. I hope that if I am ever faced with a similar challenge, I will be able to follow your faithful example.

    The Richards are true-blue Hokies, but this week we love UVA as they treat you to free you from your cancer and terrible pain.

    We love you!

    In constant hope,
    Sam, Jenny, Samuel, Kathleen, and William

    P.S. Please tell Linda that Sam and I went out today to purchase The Shack and have already started to read it.

  7. Dr. Crabtree,
    We received your first letter about your illness. Thank you so much for doing that. Then we received the second one with this blog address. Thanks so very much.
    Your blog is wonderful, detailing how wonderful our Lord has been in touching you. We have been and are praying for your complete healing. We cannot pray for anything less. We never know when the Lord may turn and leave a blessing behind.
    I know personally, some of the stuff you've been through but not all. Once my doctor said I couldn't live through the night but that has been 55 years ago. Then twice in one year I was told I couldn't live to the end of the year as I had Hodgkins Disease then a melanoma on my thyroid but that has been 20 years ago. So we know the Lord can do exceeding abundant above all we can ask or think. We love you dearly. You are the best doctor we've ever had!
    Paul & Mildred Cannon

  8. Dear Dr Dan,
    As I continue to read your words and I continue to pray for you and to give you the strength and power to arise and walk again in the newness of life itself, and to give Linda and your girls the peace, joy and understanding of it all. We continue to pray for you each and everyday. I have been humbled by your words and faith. God is so good and he is wonderful. I pray for your remission from the enemy and pain, and knowing that God is a MIRACLE worker and he does listen and he will heal you if you just believe and have faith. You will always be on my mind and in my heart. I pray the you will have comfort and joy throughout your journey and I continue to pray diligently for you all. If you need anything...hollar

    Love you,
    Susan Burtin (Wahl)

  9. Daddy,
    Asher and I were praying for you this morning and Asher said, "Mommy, I don't know what else to say." I suggested some things he might pray for, but he didn't seem satisfied. Asher said, "Well I know what Jesus would say to Grandpa." Curious, I asked him to tell me. He said, "Jesus would say 'Grandpa, I Am the medicine that you need to take.'" I was so astonished by the profound wisdom spoken by my three-year-old that I burst into tears. I am so grateful for the reminder on this long-awaited "day of medicine" that Jesus is the ultimate healer and Great Physician. Continue in your courage, strength, and willingness to share your story. Continue in resting in the knowledge that Jesus is all the "medicine" we'll ever need.
    With much love,

  10. I am a friend of Christianne and Dave and former Tab attendee who used to live in Norfolk. We are now in RI, but on our way back to Norfolk soon (via Navy orders). I just wanted to let you know that you and your family are in our prayers and that the arm of the Lord is a long one, reaching out to believers you haven't even met to gather prayers for you and glory to His name. Thanks for your hope and inspiring words as you go through this ordeal. I can't wait to get back to Norfolk in May and meet you in person. We have already been blessed by Christianne and Dave and can see what a wonderful you are blessed to have. May the Lord's grace and peace be with you.

    Leigh Rimmer (husband Will, and boys Charley(4) & Ben(2))

  11. Dan,

    THIS is what blogs are for. THANK YOU for sharing this with us as we pray for you. Those whoa re praying need a roadmap to follow our petitions. This blog may report an answered prayer that you did not even know about. Do not let discouragement gain a foothold, God is still in control even when you begin to wonder!

    Bill Stephany

  12. Sometimes we just feel to ashamed to ask for the healing and He is quick to remind me that I have not because I ask not. The battle is hell, but the wisdom and the fight are glorious whatever the outcome. May you be healed Dan. Swiftly, miraculously, completely, with never a return. I love you both so much.
    Emily Arters

  13. Dan - It occurs to us that Col.1:24 perhaps refers to you as well. That you are doing this great work for all of us in the body of Christ. Your cheer and praise to God reflect the "rejoicing in sufferings" that Paul mentions. "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions." Thank you for the great service you are doing for us all in your rejoicing and sharing, which inspires us all to do same.
    Bill & Wendy Hunter

  14. Thanks for doing this blog, Dr. Dan, (and Christianne) :)